Dangerous Beautiful Sight

My home for 3 years
In 1974, I was in the U.S. Navy serving on  an aircraft carrier, the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63). We were in the middle of the Pacific Ocean a thousand miles from the nearest scrap of land when late one evening a Battle Stations drill was conducted. My battle station was at the top of the crow's nest, a position far, far, way-the-hell far up in the air at the top of the ship. Nobody and nothing was above me except the sky and the top part of a communications antenna. From this lofty perch I was supposed to record the action of the battle we were always preparing for or enemy planes flying over and at us or enemy ships firing missiles at us miles away. Since it was just a drill and none of that was actually happening, I was left alone to ponder life and watch all the action of planes taking off below me.

An F-14 "Tom Cat" taking off  from an aircraft carrier with
full afterburners

When in Battle Station condition, all external lights are eliminated so after the sun set, it became black ink dark. The sea is black, the sky is black, your whole world is black and you can't tell where the ocean waters stop and the horizon begins. It's like being inside a huge ball lined in black velvet. Within a few minutes though, the stars began shining; more stars than can be counted, more stars than can be imagined by anyone who has not been in the middle of an ocean on a cloudless night. The last plane of the exercise to launch was an F-14, a beautifully designed and very deadly twin engine fighter jet. The "Tom Cat" as it was called, took off and with afterburners on full, went straight up into the sky. Nothing in my world was visible except those two bright yellow-orange fireballs going straight up into the blackness and a billion twinkling points of light. Other than my wife on our wedding day and my children when they laugh, it is still the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

Postcard from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

Reagan statue at the entrance to
 the library
While in California visiting a friend recently, we took the opportunity to take in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. Having never been to a presidential library before, I was very pleasantly surprised to find it to be an interesting exhibit of artifacts, historical documents and interactive displays. There was a full-sized replica of the Oval Office and Ronald Reagan's actual Air Force One plane along with a replica of the White House's Rose Garden.

I always thought Reagan was a pretty good president, but I came away more impressed with him and some of the things he said way back in the early 1980's ring truer than ever today. To be honest, initially I wasn't expecting much and was not very enthused about going to a presidential library. I only went to accompany my friend who wanted to see it, but I definitely came away wanting to visit more of them. Before we left the gift shop, I purchased a Presidential Library Passport. Looking like a passport and about the same size as one, it contains information and the location of each presidential library in America and has a place to get the page stamped as you visit. There happens to be 3 of them within easy driving distance of my home and I fully intend for there to be some stamping going on soon!

The library is on the top of a high hill which offers
a great view of the surrounding area

Signs of Reagan's favorite sayings were posted
throughout the library

Full-sized recreation of the Oval Office

Reagan's presidential limo

Ronald Reagan quote, March 6, 1981

Reagan's Air Force One. We took a tour
of it - pretty impressive!

Ronald Reagan quote

Piece of the Berlin Wall

Bye-Bye Spooky New Orleans

With only one day left in our New Orleans adventure, the Mama-woman and Youngest-daughter wanted to visit the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and do some shopping while I wanted to visit the acclaimed World War II Museum. They had no interest in my museum and I had no interest in more shopping so it was adios, catch you later, see ya and off our separate ways we did go.

The WWII museum is very extensive and informative. I thought the ticket price was a bit high at $22 per person. but if you are active military or a veteran, you get a real nice discount so I paid a much more reasonable $13. Following the displays and artifacts through the maze-like corridors proved to be a bit of a challenge as the proper chronological route is not always clearly marked and several times I found myself in rooms I had already seen and had to backtrack to figure out what turn I had missed. Other than that minor complaint though, I found it to be interesting and would certainly recommend it. Allow yourself 3 or 4 hours to go through it.

Amazing architecture throughout the city,
but especially in the French Quarter
Later that afternoon, I hooked back up with the women folk and we just walked around, taking pictures and enjoying the sites until we were able to meet the Sis-in-law for supper. She just happened to be in New Orleans attending a business conference during the last 2 days of our visit, but couldn't get away to meet up with us until after the conference was over. While waiting for our food to be delivered, we told her about the ghost tour we had gone on the previous evening and she told us of her own interesting experience the night before. While we paid good money in search of ghosts, she actually had a frightening up close personal ghost encounter and it came free with her room!

When she decided to attend the conference, she simply picked one of the hotels nearby. She made her reservation at the Hotel Chateau Dupre' not knowing it has the reputation of being haunted. It wouldn't have mattered to her anyway. She had an open mind, but didn't actually believe in "any of that nonsense."  And the first night, absolutely nothing happened except she got a good night's rest in the old, but well-kept room. It was the second night that challenged her non-belief.

After being at the conference all the next day and then going out to eat with some of her business associates, she returned rather late to her room ready to relax and prepare for the following day's activities. Her "room" actually consisted of 2 rooms - the bedroom and a sitting room with a television which led to the bathroom. She had just settled into the bed with all of the lights out when she heard a noise. It sounded like someone slowly, softly walking across the room. She was looking toward the sound trying to see something when the light in the sitting room came on. Scared now and certainly unnerved, she called out, "Is somebody there?" All was quiet for several seconds when the TV came on! 

Entrance to the Hotel Chateau Dupre
She was pretty freaked out now, but was sure she had locked the only door into her room and absolutely knew nobody was in the room before turning out the lights. She worked up her nerve, slowly got out of bed, picked up a large bag of rather heavy written material she had brought back from the conference, and tip-toed to the sitting room. When she looked in, nobody was there! She turned on all of the lights in the whole room, checked the bathroom and was positive nobody was there. She decided it must just be something weird going on with the electricity in this old building so she turned off the TV and all of the lights and went back to bed.

She was laying there trying to calm her nerves and go to sleep when once again, the light came on and a few seconds later the television came on, this time with the sound turned up! This time she was just mad so she got up, marched into the sitting room and saw again that nobody was there. At least, nobody visible. She spoke in her most authoritarian voice and said, "OK, enough of this! I'm tired and I have a big day tomorrow so I need to get to sleep!" She reached over, turned down the volume very low on the TV and said, "I'll leave the TV on for you to watch, but don't turn up the volume. And I'll leave 1 lamp on over here for you, but do not turn on the big light overhead and YOU LEAVE ME ALONE SO I CAN SLEEP!" She went back to bed, pulled the covers up to her chin and went to sleep with no more problems from her unseen visitor that night.

Room 203 - where a spirit likes to play tricks on guests?
The next morning, not only had she not been bothered the rest of the night, but when she went through the sitting room into the bathroom, she noted both the TV and the side lamp were turned off!  She was taking a shower when she noticed the shower curtain moving a little peculiar  As she watched, she could make out a hand that was gently  brushing from left to right! Once again, she screwed up her courage and peeked out from the end the furthest away from where the indention was moving. As soon as she looked, the indention and shadow disappeared and she saw absolutely nothing. She said, "I told you to stop it. Now leave me alone!" And that was the end of any eerie activity.

Now I've known this lovely lady very well for many, many years and I've never in all that time known her to not tell the truth or even embellish a story. Still, I asked her if she was yanking our chains and she assured me she was telling the absolute truth. I was really impressed. If that had happened to me and I was by myself, I'm not so sure I wouldn't have gone running out of there screaming like a little girl and demanding a different hotel or at least a different room!

Youngest-daughter not so sure she wanted to go into the
Hotel Chateau Dupre'

With bellies full of food, we parted so she could catch her flight back home and we went back to our non-haunted hotel to pack and get ready to head home ourselves early the next morning. It had certainly been interesting and we had totally enjoyed our time in this unique city. If you've never been to New Orleans, you don't know what you're missing. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

The inside of the St. Louis Cathedral

Another picture inside the St. Louis Cathedral

Beads left over from Mardi Gras. Notice some person's sense of
humor - One "Day"

Entrance to Saint Louis Cemetery - eternal home to Voodoo
Queen Marie Laveau and many other voodoo practitioners 

The Saint Louis cemetery is supposedly 1 of the 10 most
haunted places in America